ABOUT THIS BLOG:
The original intent for writing this blog was to post my personal thoughts exposing what I saw as the foolishness, the absurdities if you will, that we humans seem to have considerable expertise in. And that prompted the idea that we are our own enemy. But, of course, that message was expressed most eloquently by Pogo, the cartoon possum that appeared in Walt Kelly’s comic strip of the same name. “We have met the enemy,” Pogo muses, “and he is us.” And so the subtitle of this blog is “Musings on Pogo’s enemy.”
The categories on the blog now include (1) Essays, (2) Human Rights, and (3) Op-Ed. The essays are presented as responses to certain selected events or claims that seemed contradictory or unfair or just flat stupid; i.e., absurd
Also included here is a five-part series called “The Myth of Universal Human Rights.” The series was prompted by the 70th anniversary of the UN’s Declaration of Universal Human Rights in 2008. As I read through this Declaration, it seemed to me that, throughout history, human rights were tentative at best. So, I set about putting the issues on paper, or actually in a word processor, and the result became these five essays.
As to the Op-Ed category, I was always interested in current events so my first tentative entry into opinion writing was trough letters-to-the-editor. Many of these were published in the local paper, The Tulsa World. But I also submitted LTE’s to my hometown paper, The Joplin Globe. Several of these were somewhat lengthy; more that the typical 250-300 words most papers allow.
At some point, the Globe gave me credit as a “Guest Columnist.” And thereafter I contributed more and more columns. Eventually, the “Guest” went away, and the paper, for whatever reason, decided I was to be designated “Columnist.” As of July 21, 2016, I have had 50 columns published. A number if them are posted here under the Op-Ed category.
So, me pondering, contemplating, mulling, cogitating about the human condition and expressing the same through a series of writings seemed to make sense. Thus was born this blog.
ABSURDITIES IN CONTEXT:
Absurdities are those insults to common sense, those violators of reason and logic, those contributors to anxiety and despair, those barriers to progress, those purveyors of paradox, those betrayers of rationality, those little red lights that signal humankind to stop and try again to get it right. They profoundly influence our concepts of freedom, liberty, justice, and morality. And to a greater or lesser degree, all have found their way into our language, our beliefs, our thinking process, and, ultimately, our behavior. They are, in fact, a part of the human condition.
There are many synonyms and closely associated words and phrases for “absurd” and “absurdity” which convey essentially the same meaning. Some of these related words include, but are certainly not limited to: Cockamamy, Contradictory, Fallacious, Farce, Foolish, Goofy, Groundless, Half-witted, Harebrained, Illogical, Imbecilic, Impossible, Incongruent, Incoherent, Inconceivable, Inconsistent, Inept, Insane, Irrational, Laughable, Ludicrous, Lunacy, Mad, Meaningless, Moronic, Nonsensical, Nuts, Outrageous, Paradoxical, Preposterous, Quixotic, Ridiculous, Screwy, Silly, Sophistic, Stupid, Unconscionable, Unintelligible, Unreal, Unreasonable, Unworkable and Wacky. If you’ve used any of these words to describe an act, an event, a process, a statement, or an argument, then you have identified an absurdity.
Over the course of my research into these everyday phenomena, I found that there are numerous species of absurdities. There are those intended as harmless comedy and those that produce deadly tragedy. There are those so subtle as to be almost undetectable and those that are squarely in your face. There are absurdities that present irony, those that express disgust, those that occur by chance, those that are transitory, and those that are systemic. All have evolved and are an integral part of civilization.
The word “absurdism” comes from a term that describes a violation of the rules of logic; namely, “reductio ad absurdum.” It’s actually a figure of speech which is defined as a counter-argument that shows the absurdity of an opponent’s argument. This fallacy says that if you get an absurd result, then the original assumption or premise must be wrong, meaningless, or self-contradictory. Here is an example from Bo Bennet’s Logically Fallacious website.
Argument: I am going into surgery tomorrow so please pray for me. If enough people pray for me, God will protect me from harm and see to it that I have a successful surgery and speedy recovery.
Explanation: We first assume the premise is true: if “enough” people prayed to God for her successful surgery and speedy recovery, then God would make it so. From this, we can deduce that God responds to popular opinion. However, if God simply granted prayers based on popularity contests, that would be both unjust and absurd. Since God cannot be unjust, then he cannot both respond to popularity and not respond to popularity, the claim is absurd, and thus false.
Absurdism is not technically a philosophy per se, but more of an attitude. It’s most frequently used by novelists and playwrights – Edward Albee, Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Eugene Ionesco, Harold Pinter, Virginia Wolf, and our old friends Albert Camus, Gabriel Marcel, and Jean-Paul Sartre – in what has been labeled the “Theater of the Absurd.” The idea is to express the failure of traditional values to fulfill human spiritual and emotional needs. It is through the expression of these ideas through books and plays that absurdism gets its connection to existentialism.
For the absurdist, like the nihilist and the existentialist, the cosmos is an irrational and unintelligible place; its existence cannot satisfy the human need for order or fulfil human hopes and aspirations. Therefore, they say, humans are essentially alone in an indifferent universe and they must make their way through their bleak, insignificant lives in the best way they can.
Another provocateur in the arena of the absurd is the concept of morality; the somewhat complex, confusing, and often contradictory system of ascribing right and wrong to personal and group conduct. Religion lives by it (mostly,) lawyers ignore it (usually,) philosophers debate it, and politicians try to legislate it. Morality also includes the notions of ethics and virtue.
Religion is often seen as the progenitor of morality. So, we have the Ten Commandments for the Judeo-Christians, the Khuddaka Patha (The Ten Charges) for the Buddhists, the Laws of Manu (eight questions) for the Hindus, and everybody’s favorite: the Golden Rule. In the law, we have a criminal code and the laws of torts and contracts. The philosophers have an entire field – ethics – to deal with it. (See Immanuel Kant and his “categorical imperative.”)
The politicians have had a field day with legislation specifically aimed at what they, in their collective wisdom, deem moral behavior; specifically in regard to prostitution, drug use, gambling, pornography, and, in the U.S., the infamous Eighteenth Amendment banning the use of alcohol (later repealed.) The moral and ethical aspects of abortion, capital punishment, assisted suicide, human cloning and embryonic stem cell research have become the hot button topics in recent years.
The mere fact that a debate rages regarding whether something is moral or immoral, ethical or unethical, right or wrong, suggests that reason, knowledge, understanding and common sense are somehow deficient, if not completely impotent. And that, from my perspective, just means there are some absurdities at work here.
With the foregoing in mind, my objective in writing this blog is merely to point out, from my own perspective, various absurdities and how this dynamic plays out on the world stage. Unfortunately, I am trapped in my own philosophy, my own mind, my own knowledge and experiences. Try as I might to be objective and scientific, I can only present my point of view and offer arguments to support my conclusions. I understand and appreciate that someone else with the same information would likely take a different approach and arrive at another result.
You should be advised that the essays, op-eds, and topical series presented in this blog are not necessarily identified as absurd or any related synonym. I leave it to you to assign whatever level of absurdity, if any, you think appropriate. Point is, if it’s included in this blog, then, for whatever reason, I judged it to have some of the properties of absurdities that I see in the everyday world.
So, I guess at the end of the day I’m really writing this blog for myself. But you are invited along for the ride. If nothing else, it will give you something to think about and, hey, who knows, it may even be helpful in understanding the stupid stuff we do.
“Absurdity, n.: A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one’s own opinion.” — Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
“We’re going through a kind of ancient, barbaric war dance now – it’s almost an ultimate in absurdity.”– Clark M. Clifford, advisor to presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson and Carter
“Every absurdity has a champion to defend it.” – Oliver Goldsmith, Anglo-Irish novelist, playwright and poet.
“Modern man must descend the spiral of his own absurdity to the lowest point; only then can he look beyond it. It is obviously impossible to get around it, jump over it, or simply avoid it.”– Vaclav Havel, Czech writer, philosopher, dissident, and statesman
“The privilege of absurdity; to which no living creature is subject, but man only.”– Thomas Hobbes, English philosopher
“No amount of manifest absurdity… could deter those who wanted to believe from believing.” — Bernard Levin, English journalist, author and broadcaster
“Absurdity is what I like most in life, and there’s humor in struggling in ignorance. If you saw a man repeatedly running into a wall until he was a bloody pulp, after a while it would make you laugh because it becomes absurd.”– David Lynch, film and television director, musician, actor, and author
“People who cannot recognize a palpable absurdity are very much in the way of civilization.” – Agnes Repplier, American essayist
“The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.” — Albert Camus, Nobel Prize winning author, journalist, and philosopher
“Man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.” — Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
“It seemed a ruse that fear of death should be the sole motivation for living and, yet, to quell this fear made the prospect of living itself seem all the more absurd; to extend this further, the notion of living one’s life for the purposes of pondering the absurdity of living was an even greater absurdity in and of itself, which thus, by reductio ad absurdum, rendered the fear of death a necessary function of life and any lack thereof, a trifling matter rooted in self-inflicted incoherence.” – Ashim Shanker, Only the Deplorable
“The American Dream has become a death sentence of drudgery, consumerism, and fatalism: a garage sale where the best of the human spirit is bartered away for comfort, obedience and trinkets. It’s unequivocally absurd.” – Zoltan Istvan, The Transhumanist Wager
“Absurdity is one of the most human things about us: a manifestation of our most advanced and interesting characteristics.”– Thomas Nagel, American philosopher, Professor of Philosophy and Law Emeritus
“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” — Voltaire, French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher
“‘Fie, tis a fault to Heaven, A fault against the Dead, a fault to Nature, To reason most absurd” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet
‘Tis grave philosophy’s absurdist dream, That heaven’s intentions are not what they seem.” – William Cowper, Hope“
I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.” – Albert Einstein, The World As I See It
“In politics, absurdity is not a handicap.” – Napoleon Bonaparte, French military and political leader
Of all Christian dogmas, perhaps the most absurd is that of the Atonement, for it not only certifies to the impotence of God but also to His lack of common sense.” – H.L. Mencken, American journalist,
“The priest speaks very ill of the philosopher, the philosopher speaks very ill of the priest. But the philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has killed a great many philosophers…The priest’s system is a tissue of absurdities and by it he secretly maintains ignorance; reason is the enemy of faith, and faith is the foundation of the priest’s position.” – Denis Diderot, French philosopher, art critic and writer
“Why shouldn’t things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go very well together.” – George Santayana, philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist